Happy Birthday, Martha!

January 12, 2024
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This historic photograph was taken on December 29, 1930, in what was then the Governor’s Mansion in Columbus. It shows Ohio First Lady Martha Kinney Cooper a year after she founded the Ohioana Library in October 1929. Her vision: to create a special library dedicated to collecting, preserving, and celebrating books by Ohio authors and about Ohio subjects. The 350 books pictured with Martha were added to the collection during the library’s inaugural year.

Today we are celebrating Martha herself, as this January 12 marks the 150th anniversary of her birth. It’s a year of milestones as later this year, Ohioana will celebrate its 95th anniversary. Over the past nine decades, the library Martha founded has expanded and grown—not only through the collection (which now holds more than 80,000 books and other items), but also through the Ohioana Book Awards (the second oldest state literary prize in America); the Ohioana Quarterly, our colorful magazine about all-things-literary in Ohio; the Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant for emerging young writers; the Ohioana Book Festival, the state’s largest celebration of Ohio books and authors; and our newest program, the Ohio Literary Trail, which shines a spotlight on Ohio’s role in shaping culture and literature worldwide. 

A few years before she died in 1964 at the age of 90, Martha said about Ohioana, “As long as we have authors, poets, and musicians, I trust that we shall be able to supply a suitable home for their splendid works, providing also a means to give them the publicity and thanks they so justly deserve.” 

We like to think that if Martha could see us today, she’d be very proud of how far Ohioana has taken her vision.

Read more about Martha Kinney Cooper and Ohioana in the cover story about our 90th anniversary in the summer 2019 issue of the Ohioana Quarterly:


By David Weaver